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Zanni (from the Italian dialectal nickname for Giovanni) can refer to either the archetype comic servant of the Commedia dell'arte or various stereotypical servant characters of the same genre.

Zanni is the origin for the English word "zany".

The Archetype

The character of Zanni was an older, impoverished man and hired servant of one of the other characters, typically Pantalone.

Zanni's costume was loosely fitting white smock and pants. He wore a black mask similar to his more popular descendant, Arlecchino. His behavior is a cartoon imitation of the impoverished rural folk of Bergamomarker who were forced to move to Venicemarker in order to make a living. As such, his interests do not always coincide with those of his master. His primary goals are his own comfort and the satisfaction of various immediate desires.

Other Zanni Characters

In later periods the character fell into disuse and the word zanni came to mean the whole category of comic servant characters. However, the term zanni was not used in this manner in Italymarker.


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